Don’t Mock My Lentils:
Vegans May Get Discrimination Rights

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Don’t Mock My Lentils:
Vegans May Get Discrimination Rights

By Marie Woolf on TimesOnLine.co.uk
March 2010

The code, drawn up by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, singles out vegans, who do not eat any animal products or wear leather, as meriting protection from religious discrimination. It says: “A person who is a vegan chooses not to use or consume animal products of any kind. That person eschews the exploitation of animals for food, clothing, accessories or any other purpose and does so out of an ethical commitment to animal welfare.”

Vegans and teetotallers are to be given the same protection against discrimination as religious groups, under legislation championed by Harriet Harman, the equalities minister.

Members of cults and “new religions” such as Scientology, whose supporters include the film stars Tom Cruise and John Travolta, would also be offered protection, as would atheists.

A code of practice explaining the legal implications of the equality bill states that religions need not be mainstream or well known for their adherents to gain protection. “A belief need not include faith or worship of a god or gods, but must affect how a person lives their life or perceives the world.”

The code, drawn up by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, singles out vegans, who do not eat any animal products or wear leather, as meriting protection from religious discrimination. It says: “A person who is a vegan chooses not to use or consume animal products of any kind. That person eschews the exploitation of animals for food, clothing, accessories or any other purpose and does so out of an ethical commitment to animal welfare.”

A spokesman from the commission explained: “This is about someone for whom being vegan or vegetarian is central to who they are. This is not something ‘thought up by the commission’. Parliament makes the law, the courts interpret it and the commission offers factual and proportionate guidance to organisations where necessary. We are providing guidance on the implications of the equality bill.”

The legislation also covers “any religious belief or philosophical belief” and even “a lack of belief”.

Philosophical beliefs to be protected could include humanism and pacifism, but a spokesman for Harman said scientific or political beliefs such as Marxism and fascism would not be covered. The commission added that the recently founded International Church of Jediism, with 500,000 followers worldwide who base their philosophy on the Star Wars films, would not qualify. Beliefs had to be heartfelt.

The watchdog also warns that advertisements giving preferential treatment to men or women could be illegal. This could mean the end of “ladies’ nights” at clubs, when women receive cut-price drinks or free entrance but men pay full price.

People for whom abstention from alcohol was a way of life would also be protected. Conversely, the bill would make it unlawful for a shopkeeper to refuse to sell cigarettes to a woman because she was pregnant.